Mythology Monday… Orion

As a follow-on from last week’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on Orion instead of continuing with the Olympian gods and goddesses. After all, Orion was the only man to ever win the heart of an eternal virgin.

 

Let’s start by refreshing our memories. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus (king of the gods) and his mistress Leto (Titan). She was born on the island of Delos and helped her mother deliver her twin brother, Apollo. While the protector of wild animals, Artemis also loves to hunt and is often found in the mountains armed with a bow and arrow, like her brother.

 

The siblings share a fiercely protective instinct, even moved to murder when their mother is threatened. Artemis stands as protector of young girls and Apollo protects young boys. This is all well and good, however, this trait leads to a tragic end when Artemis falls in love and Apollo attempts to protect her virtue.

 

Orion
The constellation of Orion, featuring the two brightest stars “Rigel” and “Betelgeuse”, as well as “Bellatrix” which forms Orion’s shoulder.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should explain more about Orion. The myths regarding him are varied, from his conception to his death. In some tales he is the son of Poseidon while others weave an odd imagining of him being born from a bull-hide on which three gods (Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes) had urinated. In all incarnations, Orion stands as a giant huntsman, known for his extreme good looks and love of the fairer sex.

 

 

In his many affairs, Orion sired a long list of children. He is said to have fifty sons born of various Naiad nymphs of the River Kephisos—known as the Kephisides—and to be the father of Dryas, who was slain by an unknown hand. Perhaps most notably, Orion is the father of The Koronides, two nymph daughters named Menippe and Metiokhe, however there is no mention of their mother.

 

The story surrounding The Koronides is a sad and gruesome one, even by mythology standards. The sisters sacrificed themselves when their homeland was plagued by pestilence and drought. The manner of their deaths differs, one tale saying they bashed their own heads while another says they slit their own throats. Either way, Persephone took pity on them and turned the siblings into comets.

 

One of Orion’s most infamous relations is his interactions with Artemis. Again, these vary, with tales ranging from a chaste friendship and shared love of hunting, to a seduction of the virgin goddess and finally a mutual attraction. I favour the last one, where the two fall in love, bonding over their love of the hunt and Orion intends to marry Artemis. Of course we know this does not end well.

 

Some say that Orion raped one of Artemis’ handmaidens and she killed him for it, while others mention an accident during one of their hunting expeditions. Given how protective Apollo is of his sister, I side with the tale of his overzealous attempt to secure her modesty, hatching a plan to trick her into killing Orion. In this version, Apollo challenges his sister into firing an arrow at a target far out at sea. She does, unaware that the target is in fact Orion’s head, and thus kills her would-be lover.

 

In a different account of his death, Orion boasted that he would kill all the wild beasts of the earth, so Gaia (goddess of earth) sent a giant scorpion to kill the hunter. Most tales of his death end with Orion being placed in the night sky by Zeus, thus solidifying him as a well-known constellation in the modern world.

 

My sister introduced me to Orion’s belt (a cluster of three little stars) at a young age. It has always been the first constellation I look for in the night sky and easily visible from my part of the world. How about you? Which constellations do you search for when glancing up at night?

 

~Raven

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Mythology Monday… Artemis & Apollo

Artemis and Apollo are twin Olympian gods, the children of head honcho Zeus and one of his many mistresses, Leto. It is said that Zeus’ wife, Hera, pursued Leto in an attempt to prevent the birth of the twins. She ultimately found refuge on the island of Delos, where she gave birth first to Artemis, who immediately helped her deliver Apollo.

 

The eldest of the twins, Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, wilderness and wild animals. Some sources say she is the goddess of the moon and chastity/virginity. She also presides over childbirth and is known as the protector of young girls up until their wedding day. To this end, all of her handmaiden’s guarded their chastity.

 

Known as a virgin goddess, Artemis drew the attention of many prospective suitors, however, only one of them stole her heart—the giant hunter Orion. As in all mythology, the accounts are varied, though in all of them, the story ends rather tragically with Orion’s death. Some say that Artemis killed him in self-defence when he got too frisky, while others tell of his seductions of her handmaiden, driving Artemis to kill him for it. Two myths weave tales of a scorpion sent to end the giant, one blames Gaia and the other Apollo.

 

The younger twin Apollo is the god of prophecy and oracles, healing, plague and disease, music, song and poetry, archery, and the protection of young boys until marriage. Bit of an overachiever, if you ask me. In some tales, he is also seen as a sun god, guiding the sun across the sky each day on a chariot pulled by four horses. He is also said to have presided over the muses.

 

As an oracular deity with the gift of prophecy, Apollo had oracles in various locations, the most famous being that of Delphi. People travelled from across the Greek world to hear their future through the priestess Pythia.

 

The myths are filled with tales of Apollo’s love affairs—with both female and male consorts—and his numerous children. In some he falls in love with women who reject him while in others the roles are reversed. He is often depicted as vengeful when faced with rejection, as in the case of Cassandra, a human woman he seduced with a promise of the gift of foresight. Scorned by her rejection, he gave her the gift to see the future, but he also cursed her so that no one would believe her prophecies.

 

The twins share a love of hunting and both carry a bow and arrow as skilled archers. They are said to have remained close and cared deeply for their Titan mother, known to avenge her when anyone threatened Leto. Like night and day, Artemis is a chaste goddess associated with the moon while Apollo stands as a sun god with a string of lovers.

 

I think it’s safe to say they are a good example of “you can’t choose your family”.

 

~Raven

Mythology Monday… Persephone

It’s February !!!

 

Since we’ve entered into the commercial month of love, I thought for this round of Mythology Monday, I would focus on Persephone. Now, as with all mythology, there are different versions of her story. The abduction of Persephone. The rape of Persephone. I confess, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so I favour the happier version over The rape of Persephone. And again, since we’re less than a week away from Valentine’s Day, let’s try to keep things cheerful.

 

Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, I find Persephone to be a rather interesting goddess. Technically, she resides over both life and death. First, she was goddess of spring—the season of renewal and life. Not even summer can compete with the abundance of fresh beginnings that take place during spring. Then, she was abducted by none other than Hades, keeper of the Underworld, where he presides over the dead. Uh, talk about star-crossed.

 

The story goes…

 

Hades fell in love with Persephone and conspired to steal her away from her mother. While the young Persephone was wandering a field, gathering wild flowers, she was abducted by Hades. Demeter was not paying enough attention to her daughter—as she was a grown woman by then—and Hades swept her away into the Underworld.

 

Demeter discovered her daughter was missing and went in a frantic search for her. The goddess even disguised herself as an ugly old hag before she found where Persephone had been taken. Furious, she goes to Zeus to ask for his help. Little did Demeter know that it was in fact Persephone’s father, Zeus, who gave the young goddess to his brother, Hades, as a bride.

 

When Zeus refused to help, Demeter withdrew her role as goddess (residing over the harvest and agriculture) and buried herself in her grief. The world was plunged into famine, forcing Zeus to step in and save the day. Zeus convinced Hades to let Persephone go so that she could return to her mother on Olympus.

 

However, Hades offers Persephone a meal before she leaves and the young goddess relents enough to eat a few pomegranate seeds. Up to this point, she had fasted. You see, if she ate anything, she would have to return to the Underworld and, as such, to Hades. Thus, Persephone would spend two-thirds of the year with her mother and the remainder of the year with her husband, Hades, in the Underworld. As a result of her mourning, Demeter refused to let crops grow during the part of the year Persephone is with Hades.

 

The obvious correlation with this myth is the change of season, where part of the year is barren and the other full of new life. Some, however, relate it to a young girl becoming a woman. I mean, you have to wonder. After all the time Persephone spent with Hades, refusing to eat a scrap of food, why, oh why, would she relent just before she makes her escape?

 

I think, perhaps she grew fond of her husband-to-be and knew she would never be able to return if she didn’t take a little bite of some fruit. Look back carefully, it is the only choice the young goddess makes in the entire sordid tale.

 

Zeus basically gives her away in an arranged marriage and Demeter refuses to part with her daughter. While you could argue that she was looking out for her as any good mother would, I find myself wondering if it wasn’t for her own selfish purposes. Would she have let Persephone stay with Hades if the young goddess chose to remain with him? Would she have given her daughter a choice in the matter? Maybe Persephone knew she would never have a choice. Either her father would force her to marry Hades or her mother would force her to remain by her side forever. Eating those pomegranate seeds was her way of choosing for herself.

 

What do you think? Choice, coincidence, or was it merely that Persephone was hungry? Either way, it certainly makes for an interesting tale.

 

~Raven

Mythology Monday… Zeus & Hera

Clearly, I’m terrible at keeping a blog, as anyone looking at the date of my last post would be able to tell. But, I’m determined to do better.

Before I delve into another post on Greek Mythology, I would like to add that I am by no means an expert and all the information I have has been garnered by internet research. Forgive me if these posts ever contradict each other or don’t add up one hundred percent of the time. Greece has been around for a very, very long time. I mean we’re talking tens of thousands of years old here. It is said to have been inhabited since 70 000 BC and back then, what we call Greek Mythology today, was their primary source of religion.

They lived in a time of unimaginably difficult circumstances and the tales and interpretations of these gods/goddesses were told and retold. This is why there seems to be so many different accounts of their divinities. As time goes by, their world changes and with it, there are new layers—for lack of a better term—added to what they already believe. Also, remember that most often, these accounts were given by word-of-mouth. Ever played broken down telephone as a kid? Then you can understand how certain details may be overlooked or embellished.

In 750 BC, these tales were finally immortalised in writing. There is some debate as to whether it was written down by one or many, however, the general belief is that Homer was the main writer. Familiar name? No, not from The Simpsons. This Homer is famous as the author of The Odyssey and The Iliad, the most influential accounts of Greek Mythology. Roughly half a century after Homer, Hesiod penned another version—The Theogony. However, Hesiod depicted creation in a different light, which is basically the one I used for my previous post involving Chaos, i.e. the void.

For this round of Mythology Monday, I thought I would begin with the king and queen of the gods. Let’s start with the king himself. No, not Elvis, that’s a very different sort of king. Here, we’re talking about Zeus. I’m sure many have seen the numerous versions of him in Hollywood retellings. My personal favourite is Luke Evans in Immortals, however, Liam Neeson’s physical characteristics in Clash of the Titans is a more accurate representation when compared to mythology.

Zeus & Hera

Zeus was depicted as a mature man with one serious beard and a head of curly hair. As god of the sky, he is often seen clutching a lightning bolt, which he uses to punish those who anger him. He is said to have control over certain elements related to weather, such as air and storms, which usually include rain, thunder and lightning. His symbols were, of course, the lightning bolt, the oak tree and the eagle.

In my research, I discovered a rather interesting snippet of information. While a lot of other folklore hailed the sun-gods as the most important, Ancient Greece gave the highest role to a god who presided over rain. Any guess as to why? Yip, you got it. Greece is a hot country and rain would have been vital in ancient times.

This king of the gods resides on Mount Olympus, which as I stated in my previous post, he gained by overthrowing the Titans alongside his two brothers—Poseidon and Hades. When the three brothers shared their winnings, Zeus received the heavens while Poseidon presided over the sea and Hades the Underworld. This left the earth as neutral ground and the eventual dwelling place of mortal man.

The son of Cronus and Rhea, Zeus married Hera, his sister and goddess of marriage, in a somewhat tragic coupling. By Hera, Zeus fathered a small number of children, but he is infamous for his affairs. Through his scandalous unions, he brought forth members of the Olympians—Apollo, Artemis, Hermes and Dionysus, along with a vast number of non-Olympians, such as Persephone. Perhaps the strangest of all is the birth of Athena, who emerged from Zeus’ head.

Zeus may have been revered as the ruler of all the gods/goddesses and the most powerful, however, he did have his limitations. He held no control over The Fates and was even susceptible to trickery and deceit. Worse still, he was subjected to several weak traits. While noble, he was affected by lust, often driving his wife to intense jealousy. He was shown to be wise and just, however, he was also vengeful and known to be unpredictable in his decisions.

Perhaps in a strange sort of serendipity, Zeus weds Hera, another seemingly honourable divinity who has a tendency towards vengeance. As with many of the females in Greek Mythology, her story is a tragic one. Like Zeus, Hera was the daughter of Titans Cronus and Rhea, who were cast into the depths of Tartarus by their very own children. She is the goddess of marriage and women, sometimes accredited with childbirth and family. Depicted as a beautiful, majestic woman, her symbols were the cow and the peacock.

There are, of course, several accounts of how Hera came to marry Zeus. From the sweet portrayals of innocent affections—putting aside the incest—to the seduction and subsequent rape of Hera by her future husband. Whether willing or not, she found herself bound to Zeus in the only real marriage amongst the Olympians. Perhaps this is why she presides over marriage and has a strong connection to the protection of women.

She may be queen of the gods, but her power is tremulous at best. Don’t think that as Zeus’ wife he allows her to wear the pants in their relationship. Hera is forced to obey him in everything, though it is said that he would listen to her counsel and shared his secrets with her. Yet all the while, Hera was subjected to his various affairs. Thus the creation of her infamous jealousy and vengeful nature. Her wrath is directed at the objects of Zeus’ desire instead of the man himself, odd given her usual penchant for protecting the fairer sex.

It seems her good nature goes out the window when it comes to adulterers and any who dare to displease her. These infidelities lead to most of the tales involving Hera and her efforts to revolt against Zeus. In a most failed attempt, he punishes her by hanging her from her feet while the other gods/goddesses stand idly by out of fear that his anger would be turned on them. At her wails of suffering, Zeus agrees to let her down as long as she promises never to rebel against him ever again. Left with no other choice, Hera agrees, though her attempts to undermine Zeus continue.

Not exactly known as a mothering sort of goddess, Hera did give birth to a number of children, some by Zeus and others on her own. In some accounts, the pair gave life to three children—Ares, Hephaestus and Hebe. In others, Hera alone is responsible for Hephaestus, whom she flung from the Heavens because he was crippled. See? Not a very motherly sort of woman.

There are a plethora of stories involving Zeus and Hera, far more than I can go into during this post. The internet is crowded with information and the different accounts of mythology. So please, if you are reading this, remember this is an extremely brief overview. While there are stacks of great sites, one is my favourite and I will include a link to the site with every Mythology Monday I do.

I hope you enjoyed this one and have a general understanding of who Zeus and Hera were to the Ancient Greeks. For those looking to read more about them, below are the links for the king and queen of the gods.

Zeus

Hera

~Raven

Mythology Monday…

So, if you’ve had a look at my About page, you’d know that I’m currently in the process of writing a series inspired by/grounded in Greek Mythology. I thought, why not start Mythology Monday? Seems appropriate. To kick us off, let’s start at the beginning—a very good place to start*.

Creation.

Wow, so many different theories scattered all over the earth. Like with everything, there are various versions, many of which are rather complicated. I’m going to lead with the “general” / popular belief, in simple terms. We begin with Chaos. A dark void, empty of space and life. From Chaos came the first of the gods and goddesses. The Primeval Deities. They were said to be personifications of the elements, given a gender but not corporeal.

First, we have Gaia (earth), Eros (love) and Tartarus (pit beneath the earth). Then came Nyx (night) and Erebus (darkness), Uranus (sky) and Pontus (sea). It is said that Nyx and Erebus birthed the siblings Aether (upper air) and Hemera (day), while Nyx alone created a host of frightening beings. In other versions, there are several deities included in the Primeval gods but we’ll give them a skip for simplicity sake.

Gaia and Uranus brought forth the Titans. The most important of these is Cronus. Though the youngest, he managed to kick his dear old dad out of office and take the throne, leaving him king of the Titans. As history tends to repeat itself, his own sons one day cast him into the depths of Tartarus, bringing about the age of the Olympians.

The twelve Olympian gods and goddesses are probably the best known of all the Greek Mythology deities. They are:

 

Aphrodite (love, beauty, desire and procreation)

Apollo (sun, music, prophecy and healing)

Ares (war and conflict)

Artemis (hunting, wild animals, childbirth and children, chastity and the moon)

Athena (wisdom, reason, war, skill, strategy and crafts)

Demeter (harvest, agriculture and fertility)

Dionysus (wine, wine-making, revelry and vegetation)

Hephaestus (fire, the forge, metalworking, building, sculpture and artistry)

Hera (“Queen of the gods”, marriage, married women, familial love and children)

Hermes (“messenger of the gods”, herds, travel, trade, merchants and thievery)

Poseidon (sea and other sources of water, earthquakes and horses)

Zeus (“King of the gods,” sky and weather, law and justice)

 

Familiar names, right? These are the ones who play vital roles in Disney/Hollywood retellings. I’m guessing you’re wondering why Hades (the dead and the Underworld) isn’t included in this list. The theory, is that since he spent his time in the Underworld, he was not regarded as an Olympian.

Incest plays a major part in mythology. If, like me, you watched the very first episode of Game of Thrones and cringed, you’ll be shocked by the amount familial couplings. Clearly, these guys were fans of the saying “keep it all in the family”. Gaia partnered with her own son, Uranus, to create the Titans. Nyx, with her brother Erebus, bore Aether and Hemera. Cronus and his sister, Rhea, gave birth to Zeus and Hera. Another set of siblings who would one day marry. The list goes on and it gets insanely complicated.

Now we have the basics of creation mapped out. In the Mondays to come, I’ll look at individual figures throughout mythology. From heroes to beasts and everything in between.

 

~Raven

*I apologise to all those who now have the Sound of Music song stuck in their heads.